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Stroke of midnight: What mattered to Maryland businesses in the 2017 General Assembly session?

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(April 11, 2017--Annapolis, MD) -- The 2017 General Assembly legislative session is now history, but its effects will show up in the months to come. Some of the bills will be very hard on business, but we defeated others that would have been damaging and supported several that will help create jobs. Take a look below at a summary of the 10 biggest bills we advocated on this session.

Sine Die, as usual, ran right up to midnight. By then, we had helped defeat SB 1200 because, while internet privacy is important, it’s bad public policy to try to ram through, in four days, a one-page bill that replaces 72 pages of federal regulation. Late in the afternoon, we also helped defeat HB 381, which would have slowed commerce by requiring freight trains to stop at the state line, pick up a second railroad crew member, and then stop on the way out of Maryland to let them off.

We supported the More Jobs for Marylanders Act to create more jobs, especially in economically challenged parts of the state, and foster the school-to-career pipeline through grants and tax credits for vocational programs and workers who didn’t finish or attend college. The bill passed last night.

After forcing several revisions, we helped finally defeat HB 1143, which would have imposed administrative burdens for paystub information.

We also worked to ensure tax credits to help businesses grow and hire more employees.

The lawmakers all go home now, but we keep working. In the coming weeks, we’ll tell you more about what happened with important bills that could affect your business. We’ll track which ones Gov. Larry Hogan signs and which ones he doesn’t. We’ll start preparing for next year, including what is sure to be a major push for a $15 minimum wage.

We need you to help us tell the story of how these bills and laws affect business. Contact us so we can advocate for you and the whole Maryland business community. And, as always, if you’re a member, log in at mdchamber.org for exclusive access to our positions and testimony that help you advocate on your own behalf and prepare for the laws’ effects.

Thank you for being with us this year. Let’s keep this community strong so Maryland can be stronger.

MDCC’s 10 Biggest Bills of the 2017 Legislative Session

SB 230/HB 1 (mandatory paid leave)
Passed – awaiting veto
Despite an unprecedented effort from the business community, HB 1 passed. This bill would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid leave for even part-time employees each year. Employers with 14 or fewer employees must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid leave. Gov. Larry Hogan promised a veto, which sets up for an override at the beginning of the 2018 session, but we will work to gain votes in the Senate to protect his veto.

SB 962/HB 1416 and HB 1305 ($15 minimum wage)
Defeated
The Chamber and other business advocates persuaded the General Assembly not to pass these bills. SB 962/HB 1416 would have established a $15 minimum wage for businesses with 25 or more employees by 2022, and for businesses with fewer than 25 employees by the following year. HB 1305 would have made the minimum wage $12.50 by mid-2019 and would alter the timetable for the existing increases in minimum wage passed during the 2014 session. We were successful this year, but this effort will likely come roaring back in 2018.

HB 1143 (paystub requirements)
Defeated
The Chamber and other business advocates beat back a number of requirements laid out in this bill before finally defeating it entirely. As introduced, it would have required employers to provide employees with extensive information on each paystub, with penalties for noncompliance. After we testified, several elements were changed, but even as amended, the bill served no purpose in statute. It was killed in the Senate Finance Committee.   

HB 317 (preemption of local authority)
Defeated
We supported this bill because it would have prevented individual cities, counties or other municipalities from setting their own minimum wages or benefits, creating economic and administrative chaos for businesses and workers. Despite strong support from a diverse and inclusive business community, the bill received an unfavorable report and was withdrawn.  

HB 1175/SB 834 (private rights to sue a place of service for discrimination)
Defeated
We helped defeat this bill, which would have raised monetary damage caps and established the right of an individual to sue a place of service for discrimination. (The current law allows an individual to file a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights and could lead to a fine.) The sponsor withdrew the bill. We continue to work with the sponsor and the MCCR to educate business owners on the laws and policies that reduce discrimination.

 HB 615/SB 357 (mandatory combined reporting)
Defeated
The Chamber’s opposition to this bill helped keep it from passing out of committee. The bill would require businesses to calculate their taxable income using the combined reporting method. The Economic Development and Business Climate (Augustine) Commission’s report explicitly advised against this requirement because it’s bad for business expansion or relocation in Maryland.

HB 1459/SB 682, SB 1058, SB 836 & SB 225 (punitive damages)
Defeated
The Chamber’s opposition to each of these bills helped to keep them from passing out of committee. Several bills this session would have amended the punitive damages standard set forth by the Maryland Court of Appeals nearly 25 years ago in Owens-Illinois v. Zenobia. The Chamber opposed these efforts because they would require businesses to pay higher insurance premiums and face greater liability.

SB 607/HB 665 (overtime rules)
Defeated
State lawmakers introduced this bill in response to the federal courts blocking the U.S. Department of Labor’s overtime rules from going into effect. The Chamber opposed this bill because it would eliminate the flexibility and benefits that come with exempt employee status. The Senate Finance Committee gave the bill an unfavorable report and the Senate sponsor withdrew it.

SB 404/HB 398 (disclosure of salary history)
Defeated
The Chamber and its coalition partners defeated these bills, which would have added regulations and eliminated common sense business practices by prohibiting an employer from inquiring about a job applicant’s previously salary history, and forbidding an employer from offering any salary lower than that advertised.

HB 413/SB 319 (funding to expand the P-TECH program)
Passed
In 2016, the General Assembly established the Pathways in Technology Early College High program for students in select schools in economically challenged areas of Maryland to gain educational and professional experience, ultimately leading to high-skilled job offers. This year, the governor’s office introduced legislation to expand the program. The final budget allows it to be implemented in six more schools. The Chamber supported the legislation because it will train Maryland’s future workforce in highly useful and desirable skills and create a more robust school-to-industry pipeline, which creates jobs and encourages economic development.